Friday, October 9, 2015

FAM must accept punishment, fans need to repent


Level Field

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) should count their lucky stars while Ultra Malaya fans should accept responsibility for the sanctioning of the national football body by FIFA's disciplinary committee after crowd disturbance led to the abandonment of the FIFA World Cup qualifying match between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia on Sept 8.
After studying the reports of the match officials, FAM’s account and relevant videos and photographs, the committee decided that the next home match of the ‘A’ representative team of Malaysia in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying competition (Malaysia v UAE on Nov 17) will be played without spectators. FAM was also fined CHF40,000 (RM180,000) and given a warning.
Furthermore, the disciplinary committee decided that the Sept 8 match be declared as lost by forfeit by Malaysia (0-3).
Upon being informed of FIFA's decision, FAM are said to be looking if there is room for appeal and if there is, to submit the appeal. But if they do so, they might be courting more trouble from the international body.
FIFA have been thorough in their disciplinary proceedings, which began after several incidents, some of which involved smoke bombs and flares, occurred within the Shah Alam Stadium, which then led to the match being abandoned in the 88th minute.
FAM were punished for violating five articles and to seek leniency certainly looks like an exercise in futility.
An appeal by FAM would only see the national body being sanctioned further for not knowing the procedures adhered to by the FIFA disciplinary committee.
Besides, for FAM to even think of appealing suggests that they support the behaviour of those troublemakers when they should be going all out to stamp out football hooliganism.
As far as security is concerned, FAM should be doubling their efforts with the assistance of the police to ensure that there is no repeat of ugly incidents.
Also, for interim national coach Ong Kim Swee to say that playing in an empty stadium would put his team at a disadvantage implies that he does not mind unruly fans.
Lest Ong has forgotten, on Sept 8, a missile had narrowly missed him.
Would he be singing this tune if the missile had hit and injured him? Or is he playing to the gallery to gain support for a position as permanent national coach?
The bottom line is that unruly fans must be punished and hopefully barred from future matches to drive some sense into their heads.
Of course, genuine fans will be affected by the ban but the rules are clear on crowd violence and match disruptions. The price of violating them has to be paid.
Ultra Malaya leader Alfadli Awaluddin wants those who took his gang to task for their irresponsible act to look at the root cause of the incident. But that is immature thinking.
Nothing justifies their rowdy behaviour, which put the lives of innocent fans, especially women and children, and players and officials at high risk.
Whatever issues Ultra Malaya may have with FAM and the poor performance of the national team should be addressed through the right channels, like sports lovers would do.
Flares and smoke bombs are not going to change anything. In fact, they do more damage to Malaysian football.
Sadly, bad fan behaviour has been on the rise at both local and international matches. Flares and smoke bombs have become the norm at M-League and Malaysia Cup matches and in the last two years, FAM have been sanctioned twice by the Asian Football Confederation.
The first time was in March last year, when there was crowd trouble at a Malaysia versus Philippines International “A” friendly match. FAM were fined US$10,000.
Then in December last year, poor spectator conduct at a Malaysia versus Vietnam match in the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup saw FAM being fined US$35,000 and ordered to play one International “A” male representative team official match without spectators. In accordance with Article 33.4 of the Code, this order is suspended for a probationary period of two years. FAM were also warned that should another violation of Article 67 of the Code occur within the probationary period, the suspension would be automatically revoked and the sanction applied, and a repeat violation of the provision would warrant severer punishment.
Thus, FAM and Ultra Malaya should stand down and instead seek to revive the battered image of Malaysian football.
For starters, efforts must be made by FAM's security committee to ensure strict measures are enforced. All persons and vehicles at the entry points of the outer and inner perimeters of stadiums should be thoroughly checked. The same rule applies to the entry points to areas that are not open to the public. These security checks should ensure that all persons possess a valid ticket, accreditation or other permits to gain access to the stadiums; that no one has in his possession any weapon or other prohibited items as set out in the stadium code of conduct or any other dangerous object that may not, for legal reasons, be taken into the stadiums, including aggressive or racist banners and laser pointers.
The rules are crystal clear on the liability of spectator conduct, where improper behaviour includes violence against persons or objects, letting off incendiary devices, throwing missiles, displaying insulting or political slogans in any form, uttering insulting words or sounds or invading the pitch.
It is FAM’s responsibility to ensure that the stadiums are safe, that the security management team is aware of and fully understands its obligations and fans are well behaved.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​​

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